KANSAS CITY -- The Kansas City Royals could have long ago given up on the season.
Would have been easy to give up on Monday’s game against Cleveland, too.
Yet despite trailing by two heading into the eighth inning, the Royals kept on fighting. And the club trying desperately to avoid finishing with the worst record in franchise history managed to come all the way back, with Drew Waters capping a two-out rally with a two-run double that sent Kansas City to a 6-4 victory against the Guardians.
“It shows we’re capable of beating really good teams,” Waters said, “and finishing the season on a high note.”
The Royals (49-102) trailed 4-2 when Kyle Isbel drew a leadoff walk in the eighth against Trevor Stephan. The reliever retired the next two batters before walking MJ Melendez and hitting Nelson Velázquez, which loaded the bases for Michael Massey, whose own walk off Stephan (6-7) scored a run to trim the Guardians’ advantage in half.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona brought in Enyel De Los Santos to face Waters, and his double to left gave the Royals the lead. A wild pitch from De Los Santos allowed Massey to score and give Kansas City’s bullpen a cushion.
Jackson Kowar (2-0) earned the win with a scoreless inning. James McArthur handled the ninth for his first big league save.
“Opportunistic, you know what I mean?” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “You’ve got to take advantage of what they give you. Sometimes that’s doing less, you know? Taking the walks.”
Gabrial Arias homered and drove in a pair of runs for Cleveland, which squandered another strong start by Cal Quantrill. He allowed two runs and five hits with three strikeouts and no walks in 5⅔ innings but was left watching from the dugout as the Guardians wasted a chance to make him 7-0 in 10 appearances against Kansas City.
On the flip side, Royals starter Brady Singer continued his late-season slump. He allowed four runs on eight hits and two walks in six innings, and the right-hander has not won since Aug. 8 in Boston.
The Guardians were coming off a sweep of the A.L. West-contending Rangers, but they are 72-79 and need to win nine of their last 11 games to avoid only their second losing season under Francona, who was left to lament a series of missed opportunities on the basepaths earlier in the game.
“We always talk about being aggressive and intelligent,” he said. “One without the other doesn’t help enough.”
Bo Naylor’s double and Myles Straw’s sacrifice staked Cleveland to a 2-0 lead. And after the Royals got one back in the third, Gabriel Arias homered in the fourth and added a sacrifice fly in the sixth to push the advantage to 4-1.
Velázquez, who has been a rare bright spot during a dismal year in Kansas City, homered with two out in the sixth, and the game remained that way until the Royals put together their eighth-inning rally.
“That’s really something we’ve talked about all year,” Singer said, “having the fight to come back.”
Notes: José Ramírez stole his 200th career base in the third inning. The five-time All-Star, whose 216th homer Sunday tied him with Carlos Santana and Hal Trosky for fifth-most in club history, became the 11th player in major league history with at least 200 steals and 200 homers through their age-30 season. … The Royals placed All-Star catcher Salvador Perez on the seven-day concussion list after he took a foul ball off his mask during Saturday’s win against Houston. Perez was initially diagnosed with a “non-concussive head injury,” but a follow-up exam revealed minor symptoms. Quatraro said he hopes Perez will be back before the end of the season. In corresponding moves, the Royals selected the contract of Tyler Cropley from Triple-A Omaha and transferred fellow catcher Freddy Fermin to the 60-day injured list. Cropley spent two days with the club earlier this season but has yet to debut. … Guardians rookie Tanner Bibee was shut down for the season after the 24-year-old right-hander came out of Saturday’s game against Texas with tightness in his hip. Bibee did not make the trip to Kansas City so he could receive more treatment for the inflammation. He finished 10-4 with a 2.98 ERA in 25 starts this season. … The Guardians will start LHP Logan Allen (7-7, 3.60) tonight. RHP Steven Cruz (0-0, 5.14) will start for the Royals.